By Marilee

After a restful winter break, Finkl Sisters4Science reconvened this week to the delight and excitement of all involved.

We began our session with a Knowledge Sharing Session, a new initiative the girls requested in which I will share the story of a female scientist, and they will teach me a Spanish phrase. We thus embrace the role of both teacher and student, each sharing something we know.

I chose Marie Curie as this week’s female scientist of the week. We learned that though she graduated from high school with honors at age fifteen, she didn’t attend college until 24 since she underwent a nervous illness, couldn’t attend university in Poland (girls were barred from receiving such education) and had to save up to attend the Sorbonne in Paris. There, she became one of the first women to receive a doctorate in the sciences and went on to meet Pierre Curie, her husband, whom she helped with his own work. In 1903, she received the Nobel Prize in physics with Pierre for their work on spontaneous radiation, becoming the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. In 1911, Marie Curie became the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize and remains the only woman to receive a Nobel Prize in two different fields, garnering the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium.

[The American Institute of Physics has a quick biography at

I asked the students how they felt about Marie Curie.

“Wow!” Lesly exclaimed. “Maybe one day I’ll study science and get a Nobel Prize!”

Everyone agreed Marie Curie had accomplished an impressive feat.

“Now, we’ll teach you,” Lesly said, and chose this week’s Spanish phrase:

¿Quien quiere pasar los materiales?

            Who wants to pass out the materials?

With that, we passed out the materials for and began “Moon Landing,” a team activity in which we decided individual and group rankings for fifteen items we’d need to survive on the moon and then compared our rankings to NASA’s official rankings.

Surprising items topped the official list, while others that the students had thought of greater value migrated to the bottom of NASA’s list. We learned that a box of matches was useless, coming in at #15 since the lack of oxygen on the moon precludes combustion. Parachute silk was ranked #8 — not to help astronauts land but rather to protect them from the sun’s rays. A self-inflating life raft came in at #9 not because the astronauts might need a raft on the moon but because it’s carbon dioxide bottle could be used for propulsion.

Such discoveries amazed the girls.

When we journaled on the exercise, Denise shared that she “used to think being an astronaut was really boring” but now knows “it’s really hard.” Alice said she never before thought a pistol might be useful in space but now knows that “you can use guns to propel yourself in space.” Jade added that she used to think “space was dangerous” but now knows “you can bring stuff to help you survive.” Margarita finished by saying that now she knows “how important water is in space because you can get dehydrated near the sun.”

We ended class with a lesson on helicopters. We folded bits of paper to imitate the basic structure of helicopters to mimic their blades. By throwing them in the air, the girls learned that without the blades, the paper helicopters simply sank to the ground, a consequence of the force of gravity pulling them down. Once the paper helicopters had slanted blades, however, the paper crafts introduced a degree of air resistance that helped the helicopters spin. We played around with different types and sizes of paper, as well as paper clips, learning that the weight of the helicopter is equal to the force of gravity. Thus, the weight of the helicopter affected how quickly it fell to the ground and how much it spun in the air.Finkl_Jan15_1


During journaling about the lesson, Alice said that she now knows “gravity depends on weight,” with Lesly adding that the size and weight of the helicopter matter.

We can’t wait to learn more during our next session!


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